TAMPA, Fla. – The mood was glum inside the Iowa Wild’s locker room after the team was blitzed 5-1 by San Antonio on Wednesday so when defenseman Brennan Menell was ushered into coach Tim Army’s office, he thought he might be in trouble.
But he wasn’t.
Menell was actually getting promoted to the NHL for the first time.
“It’s just an honor to be called up,” he said.
Menell was officially recalled by the Wild on Thursday, a day after the team sent defenseman Jared Spurgeon home from its road trip and shifted him to injured reserve with a hand injury that’ll sideline him for about two weeks.
And while Menell wasn’t in the lineup for the 5-4 victory over the Lightning, sitting as a healthy scratch after not arriving in Tampa until 3 p.m., it’s possible the Woodbury native makes his debut at some point after a strong start to his season in the American Hockey League.
“Obviously, I want to get into a game,” Menell said. “I want to prove what I can do, but I think this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Undrafted and invited to the Wild’s development camp in 2017, Menell hung around for the prospect tournament in Traverse City before staying on for training camp and even appeared in a preseason game.
Soon after, he signed a three-year entry-level contract.
“I just tried to take it step by step and I knew that when I signed, I still had a ways to go and I still had a lot to improve on,” Menell said.
“So, it’s just kind of taking it day by day and trying to get better every day.”
A right shot who was selected for this opportunity ahead of another righty with NHL experience in Louie Belpedio, the 22-year-old Menell leads AHL defensemen in assists (17) and ranks second in points (19). Last season, his 44 points set the Iowa franchise record for a defenseman in a single season.
“I feel like I’m coming into the player I want to be and developing in all the areas that I think I should be,” Menell said. “I just feel really good about my game right now.”
And getting this chance with the Wild, a team he grew up rooting for, makes the journey even more meaningful.
“I can probably speak for every kid that grew up in Minnesota, it’s their dream to play for the Wild,” said Menell. “So, to have an opportunity to do that is pretty special.”
Left to right
Nick Seeler was the first to sub in on the Wild defense with Spurgeon injured, giving the team five lefties on its back end and just one right-hander (Matt Dumba).
Brad Hunt, a left shot, has been playing on the right side all season, and Carson Soucy made the switch from his natural left side to jump up to the second unit next to Jonas Brodin.
And although Boudreau believes “every coach would prefer a left-right situation,” he heaped praise on the Brodin-Soucy pairing after Thursday’s game.
“[Brodin] and Soucy were unbelievable today,” Boudreau said. “… The way those two were moving the puck with the confidence they were playing, I thought it was really good.”
Despite playing in a new spot, Soucy looked at his best this season — oozing poise as he regularly jumped up into the offensive zone to provide support and create chances.
Not only did he cap off a three-goal outburst in the first period, but Soucy also helped set up the Wild’s fourth goal in the second.
“He’s up the ice now,” Boudreau said. “He’s not afraid.”
Captain Mikko Koivu was out because of a lower-body injury he suffered Tuesday. He’s day-to-day.